Tuesday, October 20, 2020
City of Hailey Tightens Restrictions to Tamp Down COVID
Leslie Silva and Elizabeth Bayer have no problem wearing masks while serving seniors outdoors at their first Diner’s Club gathering since the COVID pandemic started.
Friday, October 9, 2020



Hailey Mayor Martha Burke is poised to sign a mandate that would limit the size of gatherings in Hailey, with some exceptions, as the city tries to tamp down a spike in coronavirus cases.

The Hailey City Council drafted the mandate in a special session Wednesday night and Burke and her  staff approved it Thursday. But Burke was debating whether to sign it immediately or let the City Council review it one more time at next Tuesday’s meeting.

“At first, I thought I’d sign last night. Then I decided to wait. But Tuesday is a long way off,” said Burke, who planned to share a copy with the mayors of Sun Valley and Bellevue. “I just want to protect my community.”

The size of events would be limited to 10 inside and 50 outside until Blaine County squelches the surge.  Exceptions would be made for schools and a few others. Burke said the city has also received requests from day care operators to require children as young as 2 to wear facial coverings.

The Sun Valley City Council extended its facial covering order to Dec. 31, 2020, last week

Blaine County has recorded 19 new cases since Monday for a total of 719 cases since mid-March. It has gained more than a hundred new cases in the past three weeks, having had just 614 cases on Sept. 15.

Burke said that many of the new cases seem to be related to private parties, such as weddings. Some may also be due to visitors, cool weather forcing people indoors or COVID fatigue prompting some people to drop their guard. The White House Coronavirus Task Force recently cited rapidly increase cases and test positivity among 12-17-year-olds in Blaine county, as well as those in Bannock, Bingham, Custer, Elmore, Franklin, Gem, Gooding, Twin Falls and Washington counties.

The rise may be related to school openings, the report suggests.

“It’s become clear that we’re not on top of COVID. We’re not out of the woods, and the number of young people getting sick across the state is staggering,” she said. “One thing we’re trying not to do is shut down businesses. (Chamber Director) Mike McKenna said businesses are doing a good job and we can’t punish anyone who’s on board with wearing masks, installing plexiglass screens.”

Idaho also is spiraling out of control.

The state reported its second highest number of new cases on Wednesday with 671 cases--just behind the 681 reported on July 16. Then it outdid itself on Thursday with 673 cases for a total of 46,426 since the pandemic began.

Idaho's incidence rate of 195 new cases per 100,000 during last week is the eighth highest in the country, putting Idaho in the red zone. It also prompted the White House Coronavirus Task Force to urge Boise State University, University of Idaho and BYU-Rexburg to go online. Many of the Vandals' cases stem from fraternity and sororities, according to a university spokesperson.

Magic Valley COVID-19 hospitalizations have hit record highs. St. Luke’s Magic Valley now has 30 patients being treated for COVID—six-fold the five patients being treated in late August. Currently, one in five of the hospital’s patients have COVID.

The number of new cases in the Magic Valley doubled from 187 reported during the last week of August to 471 by the end of September. Hospitalizations tend to lag two weeks behind reported cases.

Idaho has now lost more than 500 of its citizens to COVID with 503 official deaths as of Thursday.  

The latest deaths include a male in his 20s in Twin Falls County—the youngest recorded in Idaho so far-- and a female in her 40s in Bannock County.

In the early part of the pandemic there were many days that Idaho reported no deaths. The last time Idaho had zero new deaths was on July 9, according to KTVB. It took five months for the state to reach 200 deaths on Aug. 3. It has taken two months since to surpass 500.

Tanis Maxwell, epidemiologist for South Central Public Health District, said the death of the man in his 20s was a terrible reminder that young people are not immune to complications from COVID.

“Many of our young people will bounce back, but some will be hit hard by this disease.”

Maxwell added that even young Idahoans have diabetes, heart disease or lung problems that can be invisible. “Some of these conditions that place people in our community at high risk aren’t obvious to the people around them. That’s why taking steps to protect everyone around us from any illness we might be carrying is such an important step in slowing the spread of this disease and saving lives.”

The spike in cases is not unique to Blaine County or Idaho. Nationwide, only two states are reporting a decline of cases over last week.

And hospitalizations have begun to rise. Wisconsin opened a field hospital this week, and Utah officials say they’re not far behind. Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wyoming also have seen record-high hospitalization numbers this week.

The pandemic has killed more Americans than succumbed to the influenza over the past five years.

Health officials say the spread is being driven not so much by big gatherings with strangers but by informal gatherings of family and friends where they’re letting their guard down.

Forty to 45 percent of those infected with COVID are asymptomatic, meaning that a substantial proportion of people who get infected get infected from those without symptoms. Those bewseen the ages of 18 and 29 make up the largest percentage of cases.

Health officials plead for people to adhere to physical distancing and wearing masks.

"Once you let up the brake, then eventually, slowly, it comes back," infectious diseseases expert Dr. Michael Osterholm told the New York Times.


Chamber Director Mike McKenna said many of the businesses he contacted do not thinking that holding the Halloween Hoopla this year would be a good idea, given the uptick in cases. Many would like to do something for the kids but no one is sure what the best path is.

That said, Jane’s Artifacts is having a Halloween House Decorating Contest. Jane Drussel is giving $200 for the best decorated house. Entry forms are available at the store.








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